Outdoors

Easter Island Meets Deerfield Beach

The partially-finished Rapa Nui Reef on a barge in Stuart. The reef will pay tribute to the iconic stone figures on Easter Island. The left-most figure in red is encased in a fiberglass mold.
The partially-finished Rapa Nui Reef on a barge in Stuart. The reef will pay tribute to the iconic stone figures on Easter Island. The left-most figure in red is encased in a fiberglass mold. Miami Herald Staff

Broward County is about to get a new diving and snorkeling destination. The Rapa Nui Reef — a collection of cast concrete statues modeled after Easter Island’s famed stone figures — will be deployed about 75 feet deep off Deerfield Beach in June.

The 15 moai (the Polynesian name for the figures) will stand from six to 22 feet tall on a platform 150 feet long and 45 feet wide on the sandy bottom extending upward to about 40 feet below the surface. A scale model of the new reef depicts a village scattered with stone heads, some upright, some lying on their sides. Divers will be able to swim around and through some of the structures and snorkelers will be able to see the reef from the surface.

“This is public art,” said Jim “Chiefy” Mathie, Deerfield Beach author and dive industry booster at an unveiling ceremony last week aboard a barge docked on the Okeechobee Waterway in Stuart.

Added Pompano Beach artist Dennis MacDonald: “I am the madman entrusted with the Rapa Nui Reef. This has been so much fun. It’s different than anything I’ve done before.”

Rapa Nui — the Polynesian name for Easter Island — is a joint project of the North Broward recreational diving community, the Women’s Club of Deerfield Beach and prominent local arts patrons Margaret and Robert Blume. Construction and deployment are estimated to cost about $500,000 — all funded privately.

“It will bring a lot of exposure to the north end of the county,” said Dixie Divers owner Arilton Pavan of Deerfield Beach.

Margaret Blume came up with the moai theme after looking at some pictures of the figures — which were erected on Easter Island between 1250 and 1500 — in a magazine.

“I thought it was mysterious and eerie,” she said. “We were looking for something iconic that hasn’t been done before … the wow factor.”

Besides wowing divers, the new reef is expected to become home for numerous species of fish and other marine creatures. It is scheduled to be put down at 11 a.m. June 7, with a celebration/watch party at the Deerfield Beach fishing pier.

Said Coconut Creek recreational diver Bill Watts: “This will be a major destination. People will come from all over.”

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